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  • Writer's pictureAthina Papailiou

How can you improve your psychological resilience?

High performance environments often relate to high demands, stress and challenges, and the ones who are highly resilient and are able to manage their stress and to overcome the obstacles and adversities that they face, are most likely to achieve their goals and thrive.

But what is psychological resilience and why is it important for our performance and wellbeing?

Psychological resilience or mental toughness is a mental skill which helps us to protect our wellbeing, cope under pressure, and recover and positively adapt quickly to new situations following challenges and adversities.

Resilience is also useful in new circumstances or changes that might not be considered as adversities, but might need a level of adjustment and positive adaptation, such as joining a high performance team, or getting a promotion at work.

Resilience is an important skill that helps us in a variety of ways, especially in fast-paced environments. Specifically, resilience can help with:

💥Staying motivated

💥Staying concentrated and focused

💥Coping with stress

💥Being in control of your thoughts and emotions

💥Being confident

💥Being more prepared to act in different situations

💥Understanding and seeking the best/more suitable sources of support

💥Emotional intelligence


There are some personality characteristics that make people more resilient than others, such as optimism, motivation, perfectionism, confidence, competitiveness, being proactive, being outgoing, being hard-working, etc, but there are also some mental skills that can be learnt and developed that can enhance psychological resilience.


Here are some tips that you can use to take control and enhance psychological resilience:


Build your self-awareness by reflecting on your thoughts and emotions using a reflective diary. It doesn’t have to be a long entry, just some key events/situations, thoughts and emotions. For example, if you felt stressed, what happened and what did you think that made you stressed, angry, or sad? This way, you will be more aware of common stressors and triggers, you will be more prepared to face them and cope with them in a way that helps you. Also, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You can record your weekly achievements to identify your strengths, which will enhance your confidence. In case you face a challenge, your confidence in your strengths will motivate you to put effort and stay committed to succeed. If you don’t like writing, you can keep an audio-journal, by audio-recording your thoughts and emotions.

🗣Talk to yourself!

Practice self-talk to control and direct your thoughts, stay focused on the present and increase your confidence. When practicing self-talk avoid using generic and negative language but try being more specific and positive instead. For example, “you can do this” is very generic, whereas “you have faced this issue in the past, and you have had good results” is more specific. Also, try to use positive sentences rather than negatives, as our mind doesn’t process the negatives: e.g., prefer saying “stay calm” rather than “don’t get upset”, even though they have the same meaning, as your mind will stick to the word ‘upset’!

🧘Relaxation or Activation?

Use relaxation or activation techniques depending on what you need on the moment to control your arousal levels. Having the right tools in mind will make you feel more prepared in times of pressure and stress. Relaxation techniques may include breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, listening to music, etc, and depends on your personal preferences. If you haven’t tried one yet, you can try some and see which ones suit you.

🎯Effective goal setting.

Goal setting can be very beneficial to have a clear outcome goal, stay organized, motivated, and committed, and be prepared in different situations. Set SMART short-term goals, so that you have a clear, specific and manageable plan of how you want to achieve your outcome goal. In case of any setbacks, you can still review your goals after identifying what went and did not go well.

🧠Plan for unexpected events

Try to think of any “what if” scenarios and what you could do to overcome them. You will then be more prepared for potential challenges and adversities, and feel more confident that you are in control.

Remember that your environment is also very important in facilitating your resilience enhancement by providing you with an effective and suitable combination of challenge and support, but the above are just some tips to focus on what you can control. Also, remember: resilience is a skill which needs time and effort to be developed like every other skill, and every person is different, so you can try to adjust some of the above tips in a way that suits you!


Fletcher, D. (2018). Psychological resilience and adversarial growth in sport and performance. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology.

Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2012). A grounded theory of psychological resilience in Olympic champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13(5), 669–678.

Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological resilience: A review and critique of definitions, concepts, and theory. European Psychologist, 18(1), 12.

Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2016). Mental fortitude training: An evidence-based approach to developing psychological resilience for sustained success. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 7(3), 135–157.

Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2014). Psychological resilience in sport performers: a review of stressors and protective factors. Journal of Sports Sciences, 32(15), 1419–1434.

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